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The Path from Syphilis to Faster MRIs

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Syphilis, sparsity, math
Art Silverman/NPR

A couple of months ago I was reading Wired magazine and came across an article that gave me pause.

The title was "Fill in the Blanks: Using Math to Turn Lo-Res Datasets Into Hi-Res Samples"

It made the impossible seem possible. Author Jordan Ellenberg told the story of a powerful mathematical technique that allowed you to form full images from only relatively few bits of information.  Ellenberg is an associate professor of math at the University of Wisconsin.  

I hardly understood how this was done, but I was a fascinated by the claims made in the story. I was also curious enough to contact Ellenberg and some of the people he mentioned in the article, and try to make sense out of all this.

It seemed like a story that would be difficult to tell on the radio – too many symbols and numbers. The details paralyzed me.

Some details were suggested by Stanford University mathematician Emmanuel Candes. He also mentioned: Scivee.tv, Rice University's site, Video Lectures.

Of course, this was way beyond me. But it was pretty to look at, and it made me feel very adult and educated to be probing around on these sites. Try it. You'll feel that way, too.

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